José Maria Quijano Fernández-Hontoria (1843–1911)

Quijano was one of the pioneers of the steel industry in the Cantabria region of the north of Spain in the late-nineteenth century. He was the founder of the nail and wire making business Forjas de Buelna and later the Nueva Montaña steelworks.

José María Quijano Fernández-Hontoria was a lawyer by training and practiced law for the first part of his career. He was born at Corrales de Buelna. His father was a lawyer at Torrelavega but died when José Marie was 16. He studied in Santander and at the University of Valladolid then worked as Secretary to the Provincial Council in Santander before taking over a law firm from his family in Torrelavega. He also began a career in politics when he was elected as a provincial deputy.

His interest in industry began at the age of 30 when he went to the Universal Exhibition in Paris with his uncle, the mining engineer Benigno Arce. When they saw a machine for forging nails they decided to develop the industry in Cantabria. They bought four machines and opened the Forjas de Buelna in an old flour mill that belonged to the family in Los Corrales de Buelna. This began supplying hardware stores in the region in 1874 and soon exported nails to other markets. Quijano opened a wire-drawing mill in 1883 to reduce his dependence on imported materials. By 1906 the forges employed around 600 people, sponsored a social security cooperative and used the latest technologies of electric power and telephone communications. He also became a partner in mines in the area and the brewery La Austriaca with his uncle and other members of the extended family.

In the 1890s he was founder and director of the Cantabrian Railway Company and the Santander to Bilbao railway. In 1899 he founded the steel company Altos Hornos de Nueva Montaña, attracting capital from the city of Santander. He installed Siemens open-hearth steel furnaces to compete with the producers nearby in Bilbao.

After his death in 1911 his Forjas de Buelna business was converted into the Sociedad Anónima José María Quijano. This later merged with the Nueva Montaña company. His widow was given the title of Countess Forjas de Buelna. The Trefilerias Quijano continues as a division of the Celsa Group and Global Steel Wire. Quianjo is featured in the interpretation centre for the industry of Cantabria at Los Corrales de Buelna.